SA's supply chain skills constraint mirrors global concerns

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SCMskills.jpgResearch indicates that high performance supply chains underpin the global economy.   However, a key constraint to successful supply chain management is the shortage of suitably qualified SCM staff, which poses a threat to both competitiveness and economic growth prospects, TechPro Personnel tells SmartProcurement.


In 2012, highlighting the importance of supply chain management, the World Economic Forum (WEF) stated that “although often overlooked, the logistics and supply chain sector underpins the entire global economy”.¹


And, while Africa remains a negligible player in global trade, accounting for only 2.8% of world exports and 2.5% of imports between 2000 and 2010², it is set to become the next growth market. Estimates suggest that sub-Saharan Africa will have more than 1,3-billion consumers by 2030, with spending expected to reach nearly $1-trillion by 2020.³


Central to unlocking Africa’s potential, though, is overcoming constraints to supply chain effectiveness, particularly the shortage of suitably qualified skills.


But make no mistake; the skills shortage is a global problem


64% of Supply Chain executives surveyed for the WEF’s Outlook on the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry 2012 had “experienced difficulty in recruiting good employees”, with “fewer good quality candidates”, “low average pay levels” and “low industry profile in schools” cited as the leading reasons creating this difficulty.¹


Similarly, 35% of 38 000 global respondents to Manpower’s Talent Shortage Survey 2013 reported experiencing difficulty filling jobs owing to a lack of available talent, with “lack of specific technical competencies (or hard skills)”, “general lack of experience” and “lack of required employability (or ‘soft’) skills” listed as the chief factors contributing to talent shortages.


In South Africa, despite an unemployment rate of nearly 25%, a shortage of suitably qualified skills is viewed as one of the key constraints to business growth. Barloworld’s SupplyChainForesight 2013 Report ranked ‘Available Supply Chain Skills’ as the second biggest constraint to achieving supply chain objectives and the single biggest constraint to competitiveness.


According to the Department of Labour’s 2008 Scarce Skills List, the supply chain skills required include Supply Chain and Distribution Managers, Logistics Managers, Air and Marine Transport professionals and Purchasing and Supply Logistics Administrators, among others.6


‘Soft skills’ increasingly important in the South African supply chain


Manpower’s 2013 Report is not alone in highlighting the lack of ‘employability’ – or ‘soft skills’ (including communication, decision-making, change management, problem-solving and strategic thinking) as a factor contributing to talent shortages.4 Recently updated South African research, conducted by the University of Johannesburg, supports this view.


An Update of the Supply Chain Skills Gap Survey in South Africa asked respondents to rank the importance of six skills clusters – namely General Management, Behavioural/Interpersonal Skills, Logistics Awareness, Logistics Analytical, Logistics Information Technology and Environmental Awareness – typically required by Managers in Logistics and Supply Chain organisations.


This year, ‘Behavioural/Interpersonal Skills’ ranked fourth overall. However, when Managers were asked to rank the top ten skills regarded as critical for the recruitment of Supply Chain employees, the list comprised mostly ‘softer’ skills.


Five specific Behavioural/Interpersonal skills areas – ‘Business Ethics’, ‘Team Work’, ‘Problem-Solving’, ‘Ability to Think Outside the Box’ and ‘Communication Skills’ – ranked in the top ten ahead of skills in the General Management and Logistics Awareness clusters, clearly indicating the increasing importance of soft skills to the Supply Chain.


Is the Supply Chain skills shortage impacting your organisation’s competitiveness and ability to deliver? Are ‘soft skills’ an important factor when you are recruiting? How would you rate the Skills Clusters from the UJ Survey? Join TechPro Personnel’s discussion on LinkedIn.


1: ‘Dealing With the Skills Challenge in Logistics’ from the ‘Outlook on the Logistics and Supply Chain Industry 2012’, World Economic Forum, 2012
2: ‘Economic Development in Africa Report 2013, UNCTAD, 2013
3: ‘The Dynamic African Consumer Market: Exploring Growth Opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa’, Accenture, 2011
4: Talent Shortage Survey 2013, Manpower Group, 2013
5: supplychainforesight, Barloworld Logistics, 2013
6: ‘Skills Requirements in the Supply Chain Industry in South Africa’, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (Africa), University of Johannesburg
7: ‘An Update of the Supply Chain Skills Gap Survey in South Africa’, Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies (Africa), University of Johannesburg

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